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Pierre Nivel, now the toop newsreader in France, was seventeen when he left Algeria during the war of independence. Along with the land of his childhood, he also left behind his neighbor and first love, Leila. Now, thirty years later, Leila needs Pierre’s help to save her daughter Amina, a spirited young woman, from marriage to the leader of one fundamentalist groups. And so, in spite of the danger, Pierre returns to Algiers, a city where he is now a stranger. His journey back in time will allow him to keep the promise made to Leila at the harbor gates thirty years earlier.
It certainly seems difficult to escape Algeria. French consciousness continues to be haunted by that country’s past. Alexandre Arcady, a man so clear and serene on the surface, is especially interested in all that is dark, secret, and threatening. As though fascinated by the “mystery” of his permanent uprooting in the summer of 1962, his latest film raises the anguishing issue of the cruel violence now shaking Algeria again after many years. This film represents a double return: Pierre (played by Antoine de Caunes) returns to the Algeria of today, and he returns to rummage through his memories of the past. He crosses a land of palpable threats, of fear, of government repression, and terrorist violence. He can’t stop running. His dash through a society quaking from the madness of a “cowards’ war” continues into the mountains of the rebellious Berber population. Where will his long flight end?
Benjamin Stora, historian (excerpt from press kit)